Sunday, October 10, 2010

More Mechanics of Nature Journaling

I have gathered a bouquet of other men's flowers and nothing but the thread that binds them is my own. -Montaigne

What I have gathered from Charlotte Mason and others regarding the art of nature journals is bound together by the thread of our home education. Though an unruly bouquet, I am spurred on by your comments and questions and will do my best to stuff it into a few little thought clouds. Hold on, I'm afraid it's going to get a bit technical. Just a bit.

asked: Is brush drawing for a later age or do they start now?

From the garden of experts: In a "Parents' Review" article, Mrs. Steinthall speaks of training in brush-drawing beginning at six-years-old as a general rule (Volume 8, no. 7, 1897, pg. 414). Miss Mason tells us that a child of five or six should begin freely illustrating their nature journals with brush-drawings (Vol. I, p. 55).

It's important to remember that Charlotte stressed that the goal of the nature journal is to enhance the child's powers of observation and their appreciation of nature and is not meant as a vehicle for formal drawing instruction. The object is more important than the rendering of that object.

Instruction in drawing had its time and place. We see drawing and brush-drawing in Charlotte's timetables in Form I (Grades 1-3). Though they don't appear in the timetables for the older grades, it is my understanding that these lessons took place in the afternoon for a fee. Charlotte wanted students drawing "from the round" meaning from the object itself rather than a linear representation of the object, and she felt that brush-drawing was better suited for this work.

New England Aster from Max's Nature Journal on October 6, 2010

wanted to know: Do your boys typically sketch with pencil and then add the color with the watercolor or are they usually using the paint only?

My boys do primarily use brush-drawing with watercolors in their nature journals. I say primarily because if they happen to bring out their pencils or an ink pen I don't look cross-eyed at them. Just as Charlotte promised, they find their way around color and form on their own.

We incorporated brush-drawing with ink into our lesson plan last year and brush-painting with watercolors this year. These "lessons" in the younger grades don't require mother to have had formal training and, as Renelle said, it's fun to learn alongside your children. Begin with instilling a reverence for the paints, paper, and brushes - meaning their proper care, handling and cleaning. Then simply set an object (ie lemon, apple, wooden box, branch) on a shelf or table a number of feet away -- so no one is distracted by detail -- and draw the object using a brush and watercolor. Again, that's during brush-drawing time. When they are putting an entry into their nature journal they can get super close, sometimes using a magnifying glass.

I take it the pans in the Winsor watercolors can be replaced or do you purchase the whole set when you run out of paint?

Aside from the company you have mentioned, how do you determine good paint from cheap paint other than price? Or is anything say over $20 a good paint?

Again, I gather from other gardens. If I get to visit an art store in person I ask a lot of questions. This is how I learned that Chinese brushes -- which are always made from natural hair -- are a much more economical alternative to expensive sable brushes. The best reviews I've found on the web take place in the form of discussions on The Sketching Forum and even offers pictures and how-to 's for making your own watercolor field boxes. Those pans in our field boxes can be replaced with individual color choice.

A bit more about what we do here will have to wait for another thought cloud to pass by. In the meantime, I'd love to hear about your own gatherings and the thread that binds them together!

ps Nancy at Sage Parnassus recently shared a link to the CM Digital Collection. There you can download two entire House of Education Student Nature Notebooks for your viewing pleasure. I've had a look and what I liked best is that they reflect the individuality of each student.


Melissa said...

So impressed with Max's painting!

"it's fun to learn alongside your children": one of my most favorite things about HSing!

p.s. yes ma'am the seminar is right around the is so busy right now but I cannot wait!

Richele said...

Isn't it though? When we relax and enjoy with our children there is delight after delight just waiting to be encountered.

Not that we're free from those difficult days. Not at all - but time spent with brush in hand are generally met with rejoicing. Of course, it also means no copywork on those days :)

Richele said...

I LOVE nature journaling so much! My son is 10 and he is kinda out of it. Unless it has to do with football lately he could care. However, my two little ones love it. Love the pictures!

Jeanne said...

Max, your painting is inspirational!

There is so much in this post, dear Richele. So much for me to learn. Our nature notebooks seem to be similar to yours, and yet I've never thought of using a magnifying glass, for example. The tip about Chinese brushes is wonderful, thank you.

Thanks also for reminding me of Miss Mason's goal for this process. I think I'd forgotten that as well... So much to learn...

Richele said...

Jeanne, I had really wanted to include some things regarding what you mentioned in your last comment but it was getting lengthy.

We went through some of your experience with Master M. as well and that led me on a quest for information. Knowing a little bit about Jemimah, I think she might like some of the things we've found. Best of all, it is impossible to make mistaeks!

Sarah said...

Hi Richele, this is truly such a wonderful help, just the way you word everything is great. We haven't used watercolors for awhile, my children have been sketching and drawing with lyra pencils. Thanks again! xxx

Renelle said...

Dear Richele, I always learn so much from you and your well thought out posts and references. Thankyou. I couldn't agree more that learning along with our children helps them so much more than chattering instructions in their ear! Kind of you to mention us in your post. Take care, Renelle

joyfulmum said...

Thanks for this very informative post Richele! All we've done so far is pencil drawings and I see that I need to be doing more:)
I'll be coming back to this post again for sure!

Amy in Peru said...

Someday, we will use the finest products and do things the right way...

until then, I'll just enjoy doing them ;)

Learning so much... I'm going to bookmark this!

Richele said...

Yeah, you're kidding, right Amy? I love your hand-made nature journals! Enjoyment is a key word.

I think Charlotte's point is that our children are people, so why would we give them inferior products that we wouldn't use ourselves?

Amy in Peru said...

yes... I guess that italics could be interpreted splattered with sarcasm couldn't it?! I certainly didn't mean it that way ;) I realize you don't think you have the final answer... but really, you do WELL! I do think that your books are closer to the ideal than we are... ;)

I meant the 'right' way as in the most wonderfully ideal, using the best quality materials, really putting our hearts into it. into everything. every time.

you know, the ideal...
how all of us are ALWAYS striving for the ideal...
but not necessarily unhappy with where we're at in the meantime,
enjoying the whole process...

know what I mean? ;)

Nancy said...

Excellent post, Richele. Thank you for all the pertinent ideas for brush drawing and nature journals. I am so much more purposeful with my younger 4 and I can't wait to see what they will have by the time they are seniors in high school. Though I do have some tales to tell about my graduates...another day, perhaps.
And thanks for the ht link!

Hodgepodgemom said...

Wonderful Q&A! I agree with the habit and practice, building confidence and certain skills will come

Heather said...

So sorry for my tardy thank you for this follow-up post. I have ordered some watercolor supplies and I look forward to using them...for my own enjoyment. :)
Thank you for the kind mention in your post. As others have said, you always provide helpful advice and inspiration. Thanks again.

joyfulmum said...

Richele I came by to tell you I was inspired by this post that we tried "brush painting" last weekend.
This got me thinking (as you do once you actually start to implement the idea, lol) is "brush drawing" "brush painting" and "dry brush technique" one and the same thing?
also I remember reading that we are to start out with good quality pencils before moving onto brush painting/drawing. Did I get this right? just wondering as all we've done until last weekend was pencil drawings, so just wondering if my progression from that to brush painting is right? :)
thanks heaps!

Richele said...

Hey Rosemary, that's great. In CMs world, brush drawing and brush painting are interchangeable. In the non-CM art world, I believe dry brush technique is a bit different.

For example, Max's picture above is a "brush drawing" but as I watched him paint I was intrigued to see him squeeze the water from his brush and spread it apart like a fan to paint the center of the flower-head in a few strokes. This is a dry-brush technique that he'd never been taught but figured out on his own.

As per your last question - I'm sorry, I don't know. Anyone?

joyfulmum said...

Oh ok! Thanks Richele! and no worries about my last question, I'll have to read some more I guess:)